Girls Getaway in the Mountains

March 2nd marked my SEVEN year anniversary of living in Colorado… and for those of you in Tennessee, can you believe it??  It seems like just yesterday that I packed up all my essentials and moved across country!  Seven years later, I am so happy I made the decision to move!

Now, even though I’ve lived here for that long… I finally did something that is VERY Colorado for the first time.

I finally went to the mountains in the winter!

Winter Park | No Thanks to Cake

Now, I’ve spent a bit of time up in the high country during the summer… but I’m not a skier or snowboarder, and I’m not the best driver in the snow and ice… so I never quite made it up there until this weekend!

Winter Park | No Thanks to Cake

When Kristen invited a group of girls to her dad’s condo in Winter Park, I couldn’t resist joining in!  I met Kristen through my friend Tiffany, and I just love her positive spirit!  She’s a native Colorado girl… so who better to serve as tour guide to this Southerner’s first trip up!

Winter Park | No Thanks to Cake

We ended up being a party of 4 – Kristen, Tiffany, and Ashley (who I just met for the first time this weekend!)

Girls' Weekend | No Thanks to Cake

We drove up to Winter Park on Saturday morning.  After unloading our stuff in the condo, we headed to The Village for lunch.  Kristen introduced us to our first ride on a people mover.  It is sort of like a lift, yet just moves you from parking lot to the village.

Winter Park | No Thanks to Cake

While there are Cheeky Monk locations in Denver, I had never been and we were all craving a hot meal on such a cold, cold day, especially after the windy ride in the people mover!  I settled on a Blackened Chicken Pita Wrap with a salad instead of fries.  So good!!!

Cheeky Monk Winter Park | No Thanks to Cake

Afterward, we walked around the Village popping into souvenir shops and visiting along the way.  The snow was coming down, but we didn’t let that slow us down!

Winter Park | No Thanks to Cake

Winter Park | No Thanks to Cake

We initially had great aspirations of going snowshoeing and playing in the snow, but when we were done with lunch and shopping, all we really wanted to do was head back to the condo and curl up on the leather couches in front of the fireplace.

This was my view for the next few hours… curled up under a down blanket.  We watched a movie, and some of us (me) took a nap.

Winter Park | No Thanks to Cake

Later that night, Kristen took us to her favorite pizza place for dinner – Hernando’s.  Such a fun little place with great pizza!  It’s been a while since I had real-deal pizza… so good!

Hernandos Pizza | No Thanks to Cake

Afterward, we went back to the condo, back to the fireplace, and opened a bottle of wine.  We snacked on green velvet angel food cake, and we found a fun game to play in the condo.  Have you ever played Table Topics?

Table Topics | No Thanks to Cake

It’s supposed to be a conversation starter, but we had so many fun answering questions that we did this for hours!  Here are some examples of what questions in the box look like.

Table Topics | No Thanks to Cake

It was so fun getting to know these girls better and JUST RELAXING a little on a Saturday night.  What a great way to re-energize after a huge work week!

Winter Park | No Thanks to Cake

We ended up grabbing a quick breakfast and heading home in the morning, so as to avoid crazy ski traffic.  Overall, I had a blast… and I know a little more what to expect next time I’m up there.  It also makes me want to spend more time up in the mountains and to see more beautiful places like this!

Thanks, Kristen, Tiffany, and Ashley, for a wonderful weekend… I look forward to spending time with you guys again very soon!  xoxo

Have you ever spent the weekend in the mountains?  What’s your favorite thing to do while there?

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Creamed Spinach Veggie Grands Pizza

I’ve been talking about making this dish for WEEKS.  It’s one of those old time favorites that I remember making with my friend Jen.  I think the original idea for the crust came from Pillsbury themselves, maybe from a magazine or the Sunday coupon flier.

Wherever it originated, I am so glad we found it!

Creamed Spinach and Veggie Grands Pizza | No Thanks to Cake

When I lived with Jen way back when, this used to be one of our staples.  Because… what makes a better pizza than a can of Grands and a package of creamed spinach.  I can’t think of anything… and it was always fun to load the little pizza up with whatever we had in the fridge.

It was always delish, regardless of the toppings, but making it with creamed spinach (or creamed spin, as we called it) made for the BEST Grands pizzas ever… TRY THEM!

Creamed Spinach and Veggie Grands Pizza

Serves 1

INGREDIENTS

Creamed Spinach and Veggie Grands Pizza | No Thanks to Cake

1 Golden Wheat Reduced Fat Grands Biscuit

1/3 cup creamed spinach

2 cloves garlic

3 black olives

1/2 roma tomato, diced

2 broccoli florets diced

2 Tbsp. shredded mozzarella

INSTRUCTIONS

1.  Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.

2.  Roll out your Grands biscuit with a rolling pin, and move it to a baking sheet.

Creamed Spinach and Veggie Grands Pizza | No Thanks to Cake

Creamed Spinach and Veggie Grands Pizza | No Thanks to Cake

3.  Prepare your creamed spinach in the microwave per the package instructions.

Creamed Spinach and Veggie Grands Pizza | No Thanks to Cake

4.  Measure out 1/3 cup of creamed spinach and spread it on the Grand.

Creamed Spinach and Veggie Grands Pizza | No Thanks to Cake

Creamed Spinach and Veggie Grands Pizza | No Thanks to Cake

5.  Top with veggies.

Creamed Spinach and Veggie Grands Pizza | No Thanks to Cake

Creamed Spinach and Veggie Grands Pizza | No Thanks to Cake

6.  Add the cheese, and top with olives.  Sprinkle with crushed red pepper, if you like it spicy!

Creamed Spinach and Veggie Grands Pizza | No Thanks to Cake

7.  Bake pizza for 10-13 minutes, or until pizza is browned.

Creamed Spinach and Veggie Grands Pizza | No Thanks to Cake

8.  Slice your pizza and get ready to be amazed…

Creamed Spinach and Veggie Grands Pizza | No Thanks to Cake

Creamed Spinach and Veggie Grands Pizza | No Thanks to Cake

Creamed Spinach and Veggie Grands Pizza | No Thanks to Cake

Per entire recipe:

CAL 275; CARB 37g; FAT 12g; PROT 9g; FIB 3g; WW Points: 8

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Heirloom Tomato-Kale Lavash Pizza

One thing I noticed when I was in Chicago was the types of foods that were lingering about.

Hot dog restaurants, decadent deep dish pizzas, big sloppy sandwiches…

I only ate one of the three… which came in the form of a Spinach-broccoli deep dish pie, but seeing all the high-calorie establishments had a positive impact on me… catapulting me back into my healthy eating as soon as I hit the ground back in Denver and inspiring me to make a healthier version of this crazy Chicago cuisine.

I went to my favorite little grocery store – Sprouts – to pick up a few ingredients for dinner.  I had time to linger about, and before I knew it, I found myself in the bread department.

PS… I never go to the bread department.

But, I had an idea to whip up a clever healthy pizza.  There were so many options to use for the crust.  Pitas?  Tortillas?  Cute Flatbreads?  Naan?  But, what I went with was…

I had never tried this bread, but it looks perfect for a pizza.  Super thin, and wrap-like, with and seemed BIG.  And, if there’s one thing I enjoy, it’s a plentiful pizza.

What is Lavash?  It’s a super-thin Armenian flatbread.  From my quick research, it sounds like it’s fired very similar to naan bread, but tastes more like a thin cracker of a bread.

The combination of kale and heirloom tomatoes was AWESOME.  I’m thinking I would have liked even more garlic on the pizza and the next time I’ll throw some roasted garlic on it as well.  I loved the way the kale cooked up, and the freshness of the tomatoes.  DELISH!

Heirloom Tomato-Kale Lavash Pizza

Serves 1

INGREDIENTS

1 lavash bread (or whole wheat pita)
1 heirloom tomato, thinly sliced
1 tsp. EVOO (I used basil EVOO)
1/4 shallot, thinly sliced
1/2 cup kale, thinly sliced
garlic salt
crushed red pepper flakes
cooking spray
INSTRUCTIONS

1.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

2.  Spray a cooking sheet with cooking spray and add your lavash.  Top with 1 tsp. of olive oil and spread with a brush to coat evenly.

3.  Add thinly sliced shallots and tomatoes.

4.  Add your kale and top with sliced mozzarella.  Note:  I only had the tiny snacking mozzarellas, so I used 1 1/2 of them on top of my pizza.  You can use 1 1/2 oz. of cheese instead, if you have a larger piece of mozzarella handy.

5.  Sprinkle lightly with garlic salt and crushed red pepper flakes, if desired.  Bake at 400 degrees for 13-15 minutes until the crust is crispy.

6.  Remove to a cutting board and slice.

7.  Serve and enjoy!

Per entire recipe serving:

CAL 299; CARB 24g; FAT 12g; PROT 5g; FIB 1g; WW Points Plus: 6

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A Weekend in the Windy City

A few months back, the ladies I used to work with reached out and wanted to plan a girls’ trip to Chicago.  Having left my previous job over a year and a half ago, I hadn’t the chance to see these amazing women for just about as long… and jumped at the chance to get together.

When we were deciding where to meet, it got a little tricky.  We all live in different places afterall:  San Diego, Chicago, Denver, Nashville, and Columbus.  When Lisa offered to host us in Chicago, I was really excited.  Afterall, I just adore the Windy City… and it had been a few years since I traveled there.

Due to conflicts with the dates and other commitments, we ended up being a party of three instead of a party of five.  Just the same, we had an absolute blast.

Friday morning, I woke up bright and early to catch my flight.  I didn’t land until 2, and I didn’t want to be delayed by a checked bag.  And, while it sounds impossible… I carried on!  I tend to travel heavy and to pack WAY too many liquids to make this possible, but I downsized and made it happen!

Lisa picked me up at Midway, and we headed downtown to check into our hotel.  We chose the Marriott Downtown Chicago on Michigan Avenue as our hotel, and OMG… what a great place to stay!  Our room wasn’t ready when we first arrived, so Lisa and I headed to the lounge to have a cocktail and catch up. 

This also gave us a chance to wait for Crystal to arrive, along with her friend Roxanne.  Shortly after everyone arrived, our room was also ready, and we went up to the 42nd floor to check it out.

Being so high up, I knew that we’d have a great view, but I didn’t expect ANY of this…

Double doors are always a good sign…

I also knew that the guy at the front desk booked us an upgrade, but this was a little crazy… in the best possible way.  Plenty of room for the 3 of us for the night, and about 20 of our closest friends…

And the view from the room was absolutely spectacular… Note:  Lake Michigan in the background!

We quickly got settled and then headed to Fleming’s for happy hour.  Fleming’s has $6 drinks and 1/2 price appetizers until 7, so we jumped on this opportunity.  I ended up finding a non-happy hour martini on their “Skinnier Cocktails” menu that I had to try called “The Farmer’s Skinny Daughter” – - made with muddled strawberries, basil, cranberry juice, and Ketel One – - Uh-mazing, and less than 100 calories!

After a few snacks, we headed across the street for a quick stop at Pops for Champagne (a nearby champagne bar.)  Everyone loves the “champs” and what a cute little place… perfect for girls’ night!  

Next, we headed to the Signature Room to see the views from the 95th floor of the John Hancock Building.  The walk to the Water Tower Place gave me a chance to see a part of Chicago I had never seen… MICHIGAN AVENUE.

Suddenly, I became the smartest girl on Michigan Avenue..

OMG… How in the world haven’t I been here?  As someone who LOVES to shop, I was so excited to see all these enormous versions of stores we had at home, as well as new stores I’d never set foot in:  Top Shop, Zara, and Burberry.  Of course, as we were walking on Friday night, most had closed, but I set my eyes on where I wanted to go on Saturday morning.

After a claustrophobic, sweaty ride to the top of the John Hancock Building, we arrived at the Signature Room.  WHAT AMAZING VIEWS!!!

 The crazy part:  The best views of the city were from… the ladies room.

Yep, here we are in the bathroom posing…

What a great spot in Chicago, and a great way to close out the night.  Oh… I nearly forgot that we decided to have late night pizza at Pizzeria Due.  We chose the Spinoccoli – A deep dish spinach/broccoli pie – that was delicious that night, and even more amazing for breakfast the next morning!

My first experience with deep-dish Chicago-style pizza.  Now, I know I prefer a thinner crust… but it was fun to try it.

Saturday morning, we got up and headed back to Michigan Avenue to get our shopping on.  Zara was at the top of my list on places I wanted to go, and Crystal and Lisa were totally game.

We spent a pretty long time there, trying on clothes and looking at all the fun things that Zara had on display.

After hearing Taylor talk about Zara for years on my morning show… it was fun to actually be there.  And, I LOVED their clothes!  I picked up this super-fun winter coat.  It’s outerwear… and no, I won’t be pairing it with a white skirt. :)

I also found a navy dress that might be my dress for the Iowa wedding next month, and a few tops.  SO CUTE!  Where I thought these would fit in my carry-on… well, that’s another story altogether, but I couldn’t resist!

After Zara, we peeked into an ENORMOUS Express, and then headed to Trader Joe’s for some snacks for the road.  Oh, Trader Joe’s… I can’t even believe how much fun it was to be in there again.

I can’t wait for our store to open in Denver.  Absolutely can’t wait!  I picked up some pretzel chips and reduced fat greek yogurt guacamole, and a caprese-arugula salad for the car ride back to the ‘burbs. 

We spent our 2nd night at Lisa’s house in St. Charles. LOVED this area, and so incredibly nice to meet Lisa’s family after hearing about them for years. 

We ended up visiting at the house, and then heading to a local Asian bistro for dinner with new friends.  With early flights on Sunday, the night ended early with Crystal and I needing to rest up and pack up for our trips home.

One awesome outcome of this trip:  We’re definitely going to do it again.  Lisa, Crystal and I had an absolute blast… and we’re hoping that next time Janet and Paula can join too!  Now to figure out the when’s and the where’s… No one’s been to Denver, so I might end up hosting next time!

Regardless of where we choose to meet up next, I can’t wait to see these ladies again.  Such a great weekend!

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